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I am working my way through Asturias (Leyenda) in E minor for classical guitar. I believe the arrangement is based on the one by Segovia. I am using this sheet music, and comparing it to the tablature here when I get confused.

At the start of the 25th measure comes a B major chord (from my understanding borrowed from the parallel major key).

The issue I am having though is that it is notated above the staff as BVII6. What is that supposed to mean? My first guess would have been a major chord with a base note of the flattened 7th scale degree, but that is clearly not the case. I am a little confused.

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The B major chord is not borrowed from the parallel major key. That's why they invented harmonic minor. –  Matt L. Mar 17 '14 at 15:49
@MattL. Okay, if you want to analyse it that way, but recurring melody line is in the natural minor (it has d, not d#). –  Tim Seguine Mar 17 '14 at 18:17
Yes, but a piece in minor is hardly ever "in natural minor", but just in minor, which means that the 6th and the 7th scale degrees can be modified whenever the composer feels it's necessary to do so. Using the natural 7 (the d# in our case) is very common in order to have a leading tone in the V chord (dominant). So the use of a natural 7 in minor never needs to be explained by modal interchange, it's just part of the minor tonality. –  Matt L. Mar 17 '14 at 18:24
Not sure which bar you're talking about. I can see an a#, which is just bad notation. It should be a bb (b-flat), which makes the chord a C7 (bar 37). The C7 functions as a dominant (tritone sub) for the B7 chord. This is just an alteration of a scale tone, which regularly happens in compositions and has nothing to do with the fact that in minor you can get a flat and a natural 6th and 7th scale degree. –  Matt L. Mar 17 '14 at 20:39
@MattL. I've clearly misunderstood the purpose of harmonic minor. You have given my understanding of music theory a push in the right direction, I think. –  Tim Seguine Mar 18 '14 at 9:56

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I think the B means Barre, and the roman numeral is the position. So B VII would be barre on the 7th fret. I don't know what the 6 means.

If you look at bar 37, we see: BVIII6, and this is a chord of C, and in bar 63 we see BII5 for a chord on B and in bar 67 BIII6 for a chord on G.

All these other chords confirm my assumption that the B means Barre and has no bearing on the actual chord name/root.

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Okay. I see the one you are referring to. Without this notation I guess it would be impossible to tell the difference between the B at fret 7 and the one at fret 2. And just a thought... maybe the number at the end has something to do with the string number? –  Tim Seguine Mar 17 '14 at 15:23
That's right - chords played in a high position will generally have a richer, more dense sound as compared to the ones played in open or a lower position, and the composer might've deliberately used a notational device like this to convey that intention. That said, it is also possible that these marks were added by an editor or publisher just to make life easier for performers. I guess a serious professional would study Albeniz's manuscript to figure out how to exactly interpret the music. –  Roland Bouman Mar 17 '14 at 15:30
Well unfortunately Albeniz composed it originally for piano, so I am not sure that would be explicitly helpful to me, except maybe to see the original chord voicings. –  Tim Seguine Mar 17 '14 at 15:34
Tim, I see. Heh, I didn't realize that - I know the piece but heard only guitar renditions of it. Well I guess that if the editor did their job well, you'll find that in most cases the Barre at the prescribed position will make most sense. However, I would certainly feel free to try a different position if that makes it easier for you to perform the piece. –  Roland Bouman Mar 17 '14 at 15:42
The 6/5 at the end are the number of strings to barre; i.e. CIII5 explicitly indicates that you do not need to fret the 6th string at the third fret. –  Dave Mar 17 '14 at 16:39

After looking at it, it seems that the Roman numeral just denotes what fret to bar off. It doesn't look like it has any reflection on the key or the chords played epically when the next Roman numeral given is VIII which is not used in Roman numeral analysis. The B is the chord being played and I can't really find the 6 that you were talking about. I will continue to look though.

As a side note, B major is used very often in E minor because the B major functions as a dominant chord that leads to E minor.

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The section "How are fingerings marked?" of the excellent Wikipedia article on "Classical guitar technique" should help you answer your question. Here's a quote:

The positions (that is where on the fretboard the first finger of the right hand is placed) are also not systematically indicated, but when they are (mostly in the case of the execution of barrés) these are indicated with Roman numerals from the first position I (index finger of the left hand placed on the 1st fret: F-B flat-E flat-A flat-C-F) to the twelfth position XII (the index finger of the left hand placed on the 12th fret: E-A-D-G-B-E; the 12th fret being placed where the body begins) or even higher up to position XIX (the classical guitar most often having 19 frets, with the 19th fret being most often split and not being usable to fret the 3rd and 4th strings).

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